Though high-end décor often conveys images of silks and linens, fragile antiques and delicate porcelains, “‘I want nothing in the house that I can’t put my feet on,’” she recalls her husband saying. “Comfort was the priority in both the visual and physical sense,” she confirms, “but I wanted the house to make a statement.”
As she perused magazines and newspapers for ideas, Sloter repeatedly came across the name Designing Solutions, designer Debbie Wiener’s firm that focuses on family-friendly interiors—and discovered it was a good match. The renovation encompassed a new library, gallery and great room; the homeowners asked Wiener to furnish these spaces, as well as make over the existing entry foyer, dining room and powder room.
Wiener, mother of two active teenage boys, understands the wear and tear family life can bring to a house. She is an expert at choosing materials and furnishings that eliminate the need for nagging and are immune to the catastrophic potential of spills. However, she also appreciates luxurious fabrics, fine furniture lines and quality workmanship and manages to blend these two seemingly incompatible priorities, designing indestructible spaces that also look good.
The Sloters’ home was built as a 1990s take on a Georgian traditional, with a center entry and the living room to one side and the dining room on the other. They had decided that the traditional living room was completely useless for their lifestyle, since they make full use of the casual, contemporary living space adjacent to the kitchen with its expanse of windows overlooking the pool and wooded landscape. So they converted the living room to Stan Sloter’s home office, accessible from the foyer through frosted glass doors.
Beyond the entry, a generous gallery opens to the kitchen, the library, the great room and the powder room. Broader than a hallway, the gallery is the center of the home and a casual gathering spot for friends when the Sloters entertain.
A mix of traditional and contemporary, the rugs reflect the Sloters’ taste; they gravitate toward items with historic roots punched up with current colors and
patterns in earthy hues. “That is part of what I loved about the project. I love a mix; it makes a room very unique,” notes Wiener.
At the beginning of the project, Wiener initially focused on rugs since they were a top priority for Sloter. Wiener e-mailed her some design samples to get a sense of her style and color preferences. Little did they know, the rugs would become the stylistic link in their overall decorating concept.
Wiener designed all of the rugs used in the project and had them fabricated by Kensington-based Soroush. “I sketched all these rugs, sitting in the carpool lane, waiting for my car to fill up with five screaming kids. I think moving from her house of kids to my car of kids inspired me,” explains Wiener.
Ultimately there would be seven rugs, each a different design yet linked by color and motif, from striped borders and spirals to geometric shapes. Through the use of color, pattern and fibers made of New Zealand wool, Wiener assured her clients that the rugs would either disguise or resist stains that might come from a pack of pre-teens running through the house. In the great room, she purposely positioned her most highly patterned, colorful rug under the sofa where the girls will most likely be eating in front of the TV.
Throughout the new spaces, Wiener’s choice of lighting is inspired: a fixture designed by Christian Liaigre in Lee Jofa silk hangs over the dining table. Wiener needed a fixture of equal importance for the adjacent foyer; she designed a shallow drum-shaped pendant with a shade of striped silk in hues that coordinate with the rugs and the dining room draperies and upholstery. Over the billiard table hangs another gorgeous fixture: a whimsical pumpkin-colored silk fixture with ochre dots by Holly Hunt. And in the library, two custom floor lamps in a twig motif bring the outdoor imagery inside.
Furnishings in both the dining room and library are traditional with contemporary accents. The dining table legs are capped with shiny, chrome ferrules; the accompanying chairs upholstered in a contemporary fabric. The chenille library chairs sport a present-day motif of confetti swirls.
“To make things really durable, I didn’t rule out bringing in some commercial lines when it was appropriate—when it worked,” says Wiener, noting the center table in the library. In addition, built-in window seats are topped in cushions with innersprings for added comfort. The girls like to lounge on them to read or study and the family gathers around the table in the comfort of the four chairs to play board games or work on puzzles.
Are the concepts of upscale luxury and family-friendly mutually exclusive? Wiener’s work for the Sloters completely proves the notion false.
Contributing editor Barbara Karth resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Mark Finkenstaedt is a photographer based in Falls Church, Virginia.
Interior Design: Debbie Wiener, Designing Solutions, Silver Spring, Maryland